People of Integrity

People of Integrity

Pentecost 16 (NL1) John B. Valentine
Genesis 39:1-23 September 25, 2022


So ... last week ... the key characters in the story were Abraham and Sarah ... the ones through whom God had hatched this plan to bless the whole world ... right???

Well ... this week we jump down a couple three generations ...

• past Abraham and Sarah ...
• past Isaac and Rebekah ...
• past Jacob and Leah and Rachel ...

To fellow named Joseph ...

• One of the great-grandsons of Father Abraham and Mother Sarah ...
• One of the heirs of this whole “blessed to be a blessing” business.

And so it comes to pass that this Joseph fellow ... he of technicolor dream-coat fame ... has been hauled down to Egypt and sold into slavery.

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Now ... as the story goes ... the person who acquires Joseph is a fellow named Potiphar ... who ... as it turns out ... is like the head of the Egyptian Secret Service.

And God is with Joseph ... and blesses the work of his hands ...

Which leads Potiphar to see Joseph as both a trusted underling and a rising star.

And so Potiphar promotes Joseph to the position of Director of Domestic Operations ...

A position in which Joseph does quite well.

But Joseph apparently isn’t just successful ... he is also “handsome and good-looking.”

And it comes to pass one afternoon that Potiphar’s wife casts her eyes Joseph’s direction and take note of his boyish good looks and his chiseled physique ... and says ... “Joseph ... why don’t you come over here and sit down ......”

But he turns her down ... arguing that “with great power comes great responsibility” ... and ... as politely as he can ... says “No.”

Then ... a few days or weeks later ... Potiphar’s wife puts on a little extra make-up and that outfit that hangs in her closet for special occasions ... and says ... “Joseph ... why don’t you come over here and sit down ......”

But again Joseph says “No”.

Then finally ... one day ... Potiphar’s wife grabs a hold of Joseph’s shirt collar ... and pulls him close ... and says “Listen here ... young man ... I’m not taking ‘No’ for an answer.”

At which point ... Joseph breaks free ... and runs off ... leaving his shirt at the scene of the crime.

Now when Potiphar’s wife sees that Joseph has fled ... and that she is left holding his shirt and nothing more ... she quickly makes a decision not to get mad ... but to get even.

And she uses that shirt as the focal point of a falsified rape accusation ... first to some of her servants ... and then to her husband Potiphar.

“See ... that Hebrew servant ... whom you have brought among us ... he came into do me wrong. And he took off his shirt and threw me on the bed ... but I cried out and he fled ... but he left his shirt here in the bedroom.”

Which ... long story short ... gets Joseph thrown into prison.

Wherein again the Lord blesses Joseph’s labors ... to the end that now the jailer sees Joseph as both a trusted underling and a rising star.

And promotes him to the position of Director of Domestic Operations ... a position in which again he does quite well.

Because “the Lord was with Joseph ... and whatever he did ... the Lord made it prosper.”

Thus far the story.

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But what do we make of this story ... and what does this story have to say to us?

Actually ... I need to begin by acknowledging that there are a couple of things that this text does NOT say. A couple of caveats ... as it were.

The first of them has to do with something that comes up with great regularity in our news cycles ... be it with professional athletes ... or politicians ... or business leaders ... or ... as was the case this week ... the head coach of the Boston Celtics ...

Accusations ... and claims of ‘false allegations’ ... about sexual violence and sexual assault and inappropriate sexual relationships in the workplace.

You see ... while this text ... strictly speaking ... is about a false allegation in a rape case ...

It is NOT to be construed as evidence that most ... or even many ... accusations about domestic violence and sexual violence and sexual assault are “false.”

Domestic violence and sexual violence and sexual assault are tragically commonplace in our society ... FAR more commonplace than most of us would like to admit ...

And we who are the Church in this world need to embody the truth that domestic violence and sexual violence and sexual assault in ALL their forms is wrong.

• We need to stand with victims ...

• We need to be honest about the harm that sexual harassment does to both individuals and institutions ... and

• We need to be numbered among those who say that such behaviors are NEVER justified and NEVER justifiable.

Secondly ... don’t use this story as a pretext to say anything negative about legal proceedings per se.

You know how ... when you get one of those postcards from the county inviting you to come into jury duty ... you’re tempted to just roll your eyes???

At least I’m tempted to just roll my eyes ... because whenever I get assigned to jury duty ... I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to clear my calendar ... and find my way to Richmond or Martinez or wherever ... only to be perempted out of the jury box by one of the attorneys.

Let’s be honest ... folks ...

• Despite of the frustrations that may come part-and-parcel with a jury duty summons ...

• Despite the accusations that certain politicians are making these days about how the legal system is being weaponized against them ...

• Despite the assertions that some folks make about how the legal system is inherently biased and unfair ...

There is a whole lot about our legal system that we should be incredibly thankful for!

• That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t constantly be striving to make it better ...

• That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when it feels cumbersome and clumsy ...

• That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when the system gets it wrong ....

But don’t let this spirit of negativity that politicians and the media have cast over our legal system stop us from being thankful and prayerful for what it is that we do have.

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So what is the point of this story from Genesis 39?

If it isn’t primarily about sexual harassment ...

If it isn’t primarily about the failings of the legal system ...

What IS it about???

Actually ... I think ... THIS:

You know how God said ... back in Genesis 12 ... that Abraham and Sarah were ‘blessed to be a blessing”???

That promise wasn’t JUST to Abraham and Sarah ... but to their kids ... and their grandkids ... and their great-grandkids ... and

It wasn’t just a blessing that would bring good things to them and their immediate family ... but rather that the whole world would be blessed through them.

And here ... in Genesis 39 ... we get to witness what happens and how it happens when one of these “blessed to be a blessing” people takes the blessing BEYOND the confines of the family.

And how is it that Joseph actually becomes a blessing to those around him???

He behaves ... with INTEGRITY ... does he not?

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What exactly does that mean?

Actually ... I was talking with our Confirmation kids the other day about that very subject ... and we decided that:

• Integrity means ... when the wrong choice seems so simple ... so easy ... so profitable ... so right ... making the decent choice nonetheless.

• Integrity means ... even when there’s absolutely no chance of “getting caught” for doing the wrong thing ... doing the right thing anyway.

Our conversation about the subject of integrity led us to conclude that maybe Will Rogers was right when he said that integrity means “living in such a way that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

Now it may well be that the breakdown of integrity is at the heart of what ails our society nowadays.

That we’ve become so used to weaponizing the news and politics and the truth against one another that we no longer really even know what integrity looks like anymore.

But see if you can relate to this:

It must have been a couple of years ago now that I pulled through one of our local fast-food places for a grab-and-go breakfast on my way off to a meeting in Sacramento.

My bill for that meal was something like $2.75 and as I pulled up to the window ... I handed the gal standing there a twenty dollar bill.

And ... in return ... she handed me my breakfast ... such as it was ... a handful of small bills and a quarter ... and I dropped it on the seat next to me and headed out on to the freeway.

It must have been about fifteen minutes later that I started fumbling around with my wallet ... to get things put back together ... when I discovered that she’d given me four fives and two singles instead of the three fives and two singles that she should have.

Well ... quite honestly ... that extra five-dollar bill was a real test of integrity for me.

Reason said that I needed that five-dollars much more than does some giant corporation.

Logic told me that they’re just going to write it off as a cashier error and get on with the accounting.

Common-sense told me that it wasn’t like I stole it or anything like that ... and there was no way I’d ever get caught.

Temptation said shut up ... be ignorant ... keep the cash.

But integrity ... quite simply ... said take the money back.

And so ... later on that week ... I took those five bucks back ... not that I didn’t wrestle with it on more than one occasion ... not that temptation didn’t linger for quite some time ... but finally I did do it ... because it was simply the right thing to do.

And then had to spend five minutes explaining to the manager why the money was really his ... and not mine.

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Integrity is a mark of how God calls us to live if we hope to be a blessing to this world in which God has planted us.

Not because it’s the easy thing or the profitable thing or the smartest thing to do ... but because it’s the right thing to do.

• Integrity in our relationships with our spouses and children ...
• Integrity in our relationships with our parents and neighbors ...
• Integrity in our relationships with our co-workers and our bosses and our employees ...
• Integrity in our relationships with those who compromise themselves in their relationships with us.

• Integrity in how we use our words ...
• Integrity in how we use our time ...
• Integrity in how we use our money ....
• Integrity in how we use our power over others ...

You see ... the fact of the matter is that we are called to treat people and live lives of integrity precisely because that’s the way that God ... our God ... God almighty ... first decided that God would treat us.

To which we can only say ... “THANKS BE TO GOD.”

“People of Integrity” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our worship service on September 25, 2022.  The text upon which it was/is based is Genesis 39:1-23.  To access a copy of this week’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20220925